Magazine article University Business

Sign on and Go: The Pros and Cons of Using Social Logins for Institutions

Magazine article University Business

Sign on and Go: The Pros and Cons of Using Social Logins for Institutions

Article excerpt

Authentication and identification of active campus network users have always been at the core of the IT applications necessary to run a university. If you can't log in, you can't get your email, register for your course, pay your bills, and so on. That's why most institutions have strived to offer integrated and secure single sign-on (SSO) solutions to students, staff and faculty. The technology doesn't get in the way and users don't need to remember multiple passwords.

Unfortunately, things get complicated once students graduate and lose their school accounts. As they join the ranks of alums and potential donors, technology does get in the way. If they don't register or update their contact information upon graduation, they may be treated like strangers, in need of new credentials.

While their alma maters may not recognize them anymore, students have no problem using their Facebook, Gmail, Twitter or even LinkedIn credentials to sign in to a range of other sites. Called "social logins," this option is increasingly available on the web, and it's one that schools should consider.

Frictionless authentication

Many people are logged in to their main social media accounts throughout the day. It takes only a click to sign in with social logins available on other websites--a low-key but universal version of the good old SSO.

Last October, Blue Research surveyed 600 U.S. social media consumers on behalf of social login solution provider Janrain. Eighty-eight percent said they had visited sites offering a social media account login, and 51 percent said they used the option. Those who chose not to said they didn't trust websites to use their information appropriately--a moot point in the case of colleges and universities.

The Stanford Alumni Association began offering social logins in February 2013 to ease the user experience. "Forgotten usernames and passwords are the top online customer service issues for our alumni," says Adam Miller, the alumni association's director of digital and data services. The solution, from Gigya, not only provides an authentication process through Facebook and Twitter, but also lets alums import data, including photos, from their social profiles.

The convenience of this data import has made Stanford's online alumni directory more visual by increasing the number of profile photos. …

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